GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s part of the Battle of Gettysburg that used to be much better known. A brigade of about 1,300 Union soldiers held off over four thousand Confederates at the top of Culp’s Hill. Now three people are helping reclaim the hill and its heritage.
The three, one man and two women, work with ACE, the American Conservation Experience. ACE sends crews out to work on conservation projects across the country; a lot of these projects are in National Parks. The Gettysburg crew is rooting out and cutting down unwanted vegetation.
As Jason Martz of the National Park Service explained, the hill remained largely untended after the war.
“Mother Nature came back and would ultimately reclaim Culp’s Hill,” Martz said. “This entire landscape became very heavily forested, and really no longer looked the same way that it did to the soldiers who fought here in 1863.”
Right now the ACE crew is concentrating on clearing the Union breastworks at the summit of Culp’s Hill, which had virtually disappeared under the weeds. Kevin Mathews is the crew leader.
“I’m in charge of daily logistics for a crew, and crews range from two people to eleven, or even more,” Mathews said
There are three main tasks involved in clearing the area, and the crew members switch around throughout the day.
“We have one person who is usually on the saw, that’s a sawyer,” Mathews said. “They cut all of the bigger trees down. And then for every Sawyer, we have a swamper; they’re in charge of moving the things we cut. And then we have someone who’s on herbicide, and they are solely applying herbicide to the things we cut.”
Team member Dani Hutchison is on herbicide duty this day, a task involving heavy gloves and a small bottle of blue stuff.
“We’re going through all the work of cutting these trees down, we don’t want them to grow back when we leave,” Hutchison said. “It’s dyed blue so that we can see exactly where it’s applied. It’s very very much a spot treatment, to make sure we’re minimizing the amount that we’re using and there’s no runoff into the environment.”
All three members of the crew came to ACE already interested in conservation. Liz Riester, who was wielding the saw that day, came with some previous experience.
“I had been doing week-long programs at my school that was similar to this kind of work,” Riester said. “I began to look around for different conservation courses last year, happened to find ACE and it seems to be a perfect fit for me.”
Jason Martz sees projects like these as a win-win everybody.
“We get an amazing end product and the crew who works on it gets an amazing experience, as well,” Martz said.
“I had very little knowledge of what happened here before we actually got here,” Hutchison said, “but it’s incredible the heritage that this place carries, to think about the massive Union line that fish hooked all the way around the hill.”